Sunday, February 8, 2015

Grading the Roster: Tight Ends

Photo Courtesy of USA Today

An injury plagued the Vikings top-tier tight end, but they received solid production from the depth they established at this position. Daniel House grades the tight ends and looks ahead to the future this offseason.

Updated: February 8th, 2015 10:06am

By: Daniel House

The Vikings tight end situation didn't quite escalate to its full potential like many anticipated when they entered the 2014 season. Kyle Rudolph was injured in the early portion of the season, Chase Ford was recovering from foot surgery, and the lone fully healthy tight end was Rhett Ellison. After a promising preseason in Norv Turner's offense, the hope was that Kyle Rudolph was poised for a breakout season. This didn't happen and injuries once again plagued Rudolph and the Vikings tight end corps. Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford filled his shoes nicely, but after signing a contract extension before the season, Rudolph's quick injury left many disappointed. Nonetheless, the Vikings were producing at the tight end position with some non-household names, which is promising for the future.

Note: In order to receive, a grade, the player must have been active for a least six games during the 
2014 season.*

Tight Ends:

Chase Ford

Grade: B

Analysis: After suffering a broken foot before the start of training camp, Chase Ford settled into his role and eventually found his way onto the 53-man roster. During the absence of Kyle Rudolph, he filled the role as the main passing catching tight end. Ford notched a career-best 23 catches, 258 yards and his first career touchdown against Washington. He is a big target (6'6") that has been developing into a more decorated run blocker. The next step for Ford to take his game to the next level, is to remain healthy for the duration of the season. He admitted it took time to adjust to playing with a screw in his foot. However, by the end of the season, he was showing flashes in every aspect of his game.

Projected 2015 Status: Backup tight end

Kyle Rudolph:

Grade: C-

Analysis: Once again, injuries plagued Kyle Rudolph and the career acceleration everyone has been waiting for was delayed. He suffered a tear in an abdominal muscle and was forced to have sports hernia surgery in the beginning portion of the season. Rudolph sat out for two months and was eased back into his role on offense. He finished the season with 24 catches for 231 yards and two touchdowns. This came in the same year he was signed to a 5-year $36.5 million extension. Rudolph has had a continued trend of injuries throughout his career and in order to be an elite tight end, he needs to survive a full 16-game slate.

Projected 2015 Status: Starting tight end

Rhett Ellison

Grade: B

Analysis: Rhett Ellison was named the starter during the two-month absence of Kyle Rudolph. After spending most of the early portion of his career at fullback, Ellison transitioned to standing up and playing more tight end. He was a major asset as a run blocker, but he evolved in the passing game and set career marks in receptions and total yards. He needs to improve as a pass protector, but he hasn't witnessed many snaps in this role. Ellison filled in admirably for Rudolph and he was a nice compliment to Chase Ford. He won't blow you away with athleticism, but he is a tough and physical player who will outwork his opponents.

Projected 2015 Status: Backup tight end

Ryan Otten

Analysis: Ryan Otten was jumping all over rosters this season and spent short stints with the Chargers and Bengals, before landing on the Vikings practice squad in September. The Vikings then made an ensuing roster move in November and Otten was released and resigned just two weeks later. Otten has nice size and poses a matchup threat for defenses. He definitely will be evaluated in training camp to see if he can contribute in the offense and more importantly, on special teams.

Projected 2015 Status: Training Camp competition

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